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Deep Creek Railroad

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This page was last updated on March 22, 2013.

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Overview

The Deep Creek Railroad was built to serve the copper and gold mines in the Deep Creek District along Utah's western border.

"The Deep Creek Railroad was also a mining road which was abandoned from causes other than the depletion of the mines. In this case, however, the causes were similar. The main traffic over the Deep Creek road was copper ores from the area around Gold Hill. As development of the mines progressed, the arsenical content of the ore became so high that it could no longer be smelted. Since the ore in this form was not acceptable it was no longer shipped, and the most important source of revenue of the railroad was eliminated. This line showed an operating profit for only three or four of the years of its existence, and the petition for abandonment was granted." ("The History and Economics of Utah Railroads" David F. Johnson, page 127)

"During World War I the Western Pacific Railroad (at Wendover) served as a connection point for the Deep Creek Railroad, which hauled valuable processing ores from the arsenic mines of Gold Hill some 30 miles to the south for distribution throughout the west. This valuable product helped in the processing of many of the fine metals such as copper, silver and gold." (source)

The Deep Creek's history, as taken from David Myrick's book "Railroads of Nevada and Eastern California, Volume 1":

The Deep Creek Railroad was primarily a subsidiary projection of the Western Pacific Rail road in the state of Utah, to reach from Wendover (on the main line) to Gold Hill, Utah, to service the Deep Creek and Ferber gold mining districts. The 46-mile, standard gauge line hugged the Utah-Nevada boundary for the first 17 miles, being just 30 feet east of the state line. Construction commenced late in 1916, and the road was opened on March 12, 1917. Immediate, widespread fame attached to the line a few months later when bandits held up the train and made off with considerable treasure. In less than a quarter century, Deep Creek (an old mining district once thought to be a part of Nevada) became played out, and the railroad ceased operations on July 31, 1939.

Description from ICC Valuation Docket (ICC Valuation Docket 1119, decided April 15, 1933, in Valuation Reports, Volume 43, pages 40-52):

The railroad of the Deep Creek Railroad Company is a single-track, standard gage, steam railroad, located in the States of Nevada and Utah. The main line extends southerly from Wendover, Utah, crosses and recrosses the Nevada-Utah State Line and terminates at Gold Hill, Utah, a distance of 46.004 miles of main track, and 1.725 miles of yard tracks and sidings, a total of 47.729 miles of all tracks, of which 45.441 miles of main track and 1.725 miles of yard tracks and sidings are located in Utah, and 0.563 mile of main track is located in Nevada. The carrier has joint use of station facilities at Wendover, Utah, owned by The Western Pacific Railroad Company, and has connection for interchange of traffic with the road of The Western Pacific Railroad Company at Wendover, Utah.

The country traversed by this carrier for the first 37 miles is the arid salt-lake desert. The line traverses the foothills the last 8 miles in reaching Gold Hill. The soil is mostly salt with some granite and other hard stone.

Grading is very light, averaging about 5,500 cubic yards per mile, of which 9 percent is classified as solid rock, 2 percent loose rock, and the remainder common material. There are no metal bridges on the line. Drainage is crossed by means of pile and frame trestles, and pipe and timber culverts. Crossties in the main track average about 2,700 per mile and are chiefly untreated fir, with some pine. The main line is laid principally with 52-pound and 60-pound relay rail. The tracks are ballasted with gravel.

The carrier owns and uses one steam locomotive, one freight-train car, and one passenger-train car.

The property of the carrier has been operated since completion of construction by its own organization, excepting the period January 1, 1918, to February 29, 1920, when operation was by the United States Railroad Administration.

From May 1, to December 31, 1917, railway operating expenses were 55.6 percent of the railway operating revenues; during the period property was operated by the United States Railroad Administration, January 1, 1918, to February 29, 1920, they were 124.7 percent; from March 1, 1920, to December 31, 1927, they were 76.3 percent, and for the three years preceding December 81, 1927, they were 82.4 percent. No dividends have been declared.

The Deep Creek Railroad was constructed in anticipation of the development of mines and mining at and near Gold Hill, Utah, (principally copper mines). The development of mining activity itself depended on the availability of rail service. The road was organized at the request of Western Pacific Railroad, and since 1918 Western Pacific owned and held (subject to directors' qualifying shares) all of Deep Creek's capital stock, at a cost to WP of $450,000, giving Deep Creek much needed cash that was used to pay off its construction debt.

In 1938, the present train service consisted of a mixed train operated one day a week. Train No. 81, a mixed train, departing Wendover 5:15 P.M. each Friday, arriving at Gold Hill 8:15 P.M., a trip of three hours. After a layover 90 minutes, Train No. 82, also a mixed train, departed Gold Hill at 9:45 P.M. and arrived back at Wendover at 1:00 A.M. on Saturday. No other scheduled trains operated on Deep Creek Railroad. At times, the departure from Wendover was delayed due to a delay in the connection with Westren Pacific.

Mining activity in the deep Creek district started as early as 1900. At one time there was also a stamp mill at Gold Hill. However, the ore was in "pockets" and by 1938 most of the mines have been worked out or the metal eroded. Except for a small tonnage taken out by lessees, the best property in the district had been closed most of the time. By 1938 there was no substantial activity or indications of potential tonnage, and according to Salt Lake valley smelter operators, future mining operations in the district were not dependent upon the continuance of operations by the Deep Creek Railroad. Iron ore flux from the mine at Garrison Monster, which for some years moved in substantial volume, decreased considerably and during the last year amounted to only three cars.

No agricultural products were produced for shipment. There was no lumbering or manufacturing of any kind. The only industry making any use of the tributary territory is livestock; a few carloads of sheep to and from Gold Hill each spring and fall. Shipments of livestock, which ranked next to ore in tonnage, had fallen off to practically nothing due to the practice of driving animals over the mountains directly to stations on either Western Pacific or Southern Pacific. Ninety-eight percent of livestock shipped consisted of shipments of sheep. Between 1929 and 1938 the number of sheep raisers greatly decreased and the only shipments of sheep over the railroad occured when feed in the area is poor and the animals are too weak to drive over the mountains. The Goshute Indian Reservation at Ibapah received a few small shipments on Government bills of lading at Gold Hill.

The history of the railroad was practically a history of the copper mines in and around Gold Hill. Until 1925 ore (principally copper) constituted from 75 percent to 90 percent of originating shipments, and throughout the life of the railroad approximately 85 percent of the business originated on the line. The copper ore mined near Gold Hill developed a high arsenic content in the year 1925 and became such low grade as copper ore that it was no longer profitable to continue mining activity. By 1938, practically all of the large mining properties at or near Gold Hill had ceased operations altogether, and there was no likelihood that there ever will be a substantial resumption of operations in the district.

The total population served by the railroad was in 1938 estimated at 500 (due to the cessation of mining operations and the decrease in number of stock raisers), and the population traveled by motor car. In its 1939 application for abandonment, Deep Creek's management stated that the territory then served by the railroad was at a standstill so far as passenger traffic or shipments originating from or destined to it are concerned.

Deep Creek Railroad operated its line of railroad for twenty-one full years (1917-1938). In that period of time operations resulted in a net profit during its first year 1917, and in only three other years, 1923, 1924 and 1925. By 1938 mining activity was practically at a standstill, with all of the large properties being closed without any anticipation of ever reopening, due to the copper ore being so low grade that it was no longer profitable to extract the copper. As the line of railroad had been constructed to serve the mines and had always depended on mining for the great majority of its revenues, and as the territory traversed did not produce any other traffic, the railroad served no useful purpose. Deep Creek's parent company, Western Pacific Railroad Company made financial advances to make good the rooad's operating deficits, and until recent years prior to abandonment, WP's earnings on traffic interchanged with Deep Creek more than offset the road's annual deficits. However, during the last few years WP's earnings on traffic interchanged with Deep Creek became impractical and uneconomic for Western Pacific to continue acting as a financial backup. Without WP's continued assistnace, Deep Creek Railroad could not continue its operation.

Additional details come from the application in 1939 for abandonment before the Interstate Commerce Commission:

In the year 1921 the largest mining properties near Gold Hill closed down entirely, and although they were subsequently operated to some extent, have never since operated at their former capacity. In 1923, a concentrating plant was located at Salt Springs on the railroad of Applicant, and ore was hauled from mines near Gold Hill to Salt Springs, and the refined product was shipped out from Salt Springs. The years during which the concentrating plant was operated at Salt Springs, viz., 1923, 1924 and 1925, were the only years for which Applicant showed a profit or net income. In the year 1925, the copper ore mined near Gold Hill developed a high arsenical content and became so low grade as copper ore that it was no longer profitable to extract the copper. Thereupon the arsenical ore was marketed, but the arsenic market of the world is very limited, and sufficient arsenic is obtained as a by-product from the concentrating of ordinary, or good grade, copper to supply that market, and it is not profitable to market ore solely for its arsenical content. Practically all of the large mining properties at or near Gold Hill have ceased operations altogether, due to the above physical conditions, and there is no likelihood that there ever will be a substantial resumption of operations in the district, the probability being that no such resumption will be undertaken.

For the year 1918;- the first full year of the railroad's operations, 736 cars originated on the railroad. For the years 1923, 1924 and 1925, the only years when the railroad was operated at a net profit, 480 cars, 971 cars and 428 cars, respectively, originated on the railroad. In the year 1938, 73 carloads of freight originated on the railroad and 25 carloads terminated on the railroad. For the year 1924, the year in which the largest net income was derived, such net income amounted to only $18,039,206. In the year 1918, 179 cars from other railroads were destined for points on the Deep Creek Railroad. For the years 1936, 1937 and 1938, but 15, 24 and 25 cars, respectively, were received by the Deep Creek Railroad. In other words, the territory now served by the Deep Creek Railroad is at a standstill so far as shipments originating from or destined to it are concerned.

Applicant is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Western Pacific Railroad Company, an interstate railroad corporation. When Applicant's railroad operations have resulted in deficits, advances on open book account have been obtained from said parent company. The earnings of said parent company on traffic delivered to and received from Deep Creek Railroad more than offset the annual deficits of Deep Creek Railroad until two years ago, when the parent company's earnings on traffic interchanged with Applicant for the first time were less than Applicant's deficit in operating income.

Taxes were based on the value of the property, not on income, and there is a state corporation franchise tax, and recently an additional public utilities corporation tax. For the years 1920, 1921 and 1922 Applicant paid more than $6,000 per annum in taxes. For the years 1923, 1924 and 1925 it paid over $5,000 per annum in taxes. For the year 1926, with total operating revenues of $18,097 and a net income deficit of $12,782 Applicant paid taxes amounting to $5,832. For the years 1927, 1928 and 1929, taxes over $5,000 per year were paid with deficits of $9,875.26, $9,232.30 and $11,400.82 respectively.

In 1930 Applicant applied for a reduction in the assessed valuation of its properties as a condition to repairing its roadbed (injured by a cloud-burst) and resuming interrupted railroad operations. The assessed valuation of Applicant's properties was thereupon reduced to the then scrap value thereof, viz., $48,045. The taxes for 1930 were $1,337 as compared with 5,436 in 1929. Thereafter the assessed valuation remained substantially unchanged until 1934, when it was again materially reduced and the taxes since have been less than $700 a year. An advance in freight rates was also obtained in 1930 as a condition to repairing the roadbed and resuming operations. With the reduced taxes and increase in revenue secured through the increase in freight rates, the Company's deficit in railway operating income remained low from 1931 until 1934. However, in 1934 and subsequently revenue dropped off materially and the deficit increased.

Western Pacific Railroad Company entered voluntary reorganization in 1935. On January 5, 1939 the reorganization plan was approved by the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of California. One stipulation of the reorganization was that WP and its trustees would petition for approval of the abandonment of the Deep Creek Railroad. By that time, Deep Creek owed WP $45,000 from a demand note dated 1921, and another $128,230.40 in "open book accounts". In accordance with WP's reorganization plan, Deep Creek Railroad applied to the federal Interstate Commerce Commission for abandonment of its line on January 19, 1939.

Timeline

October 11, 1916
Deep Creek Railroad was organized in Utah. (corporate information)

"Railroad Assured For The Deep Creek District". (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 18, number 13, October 15, 1916, pp.28,29)

October 1916
Contract for the construction of the Deep Creek Railroad was let to Utah Construction Company. Grading had already commenced. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 18, number 14, October 30, 1916, p.34, "Trade Notes")

November 1916
F. C. Richmond Machinery Company sold 13,750,000 pounds of 60-pound rail (about 65 miles) to the Deep Creek Railroad. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 18, number 16, November 30, 1916, p.33, "Trade Notes")

During the mid to late November 1916, the grading and laying of ties had reached a point about thirty miles south of Wendover. Laying of rails had commenced and would reach twenty miles by December 1, 1916. There were four construction camps. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 18, number 16, November 30, 1916, p.37, "Around The State")

December 1916
The promoter and builder of the railroad was Captain Duncan MacVichie. The railroad was to be completed by January 5, 1917, grading had reached to within a mile of Gold Hill, twenty miles of rail had been laid. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 18, number 18, December 30, 1916, p.17)

February 1917
Deep Creek Railroad was built by the interests of Western Utah Copper Company, which included Duncan MacVichie, Harold R. Smoot, and Edwin T. Jones, who were also the treasurer, president, and vice president of Goodwin Townsite, which was the location of the depot, post office, and business district of the area known as the Gold Hill Post Office. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 18, number 21, February 15, 1917, p.18)

March 1917
The first ore shipments from Gold Hill (Goodwin) were made in the middle of March 1917. Duncan MacVichie, president of the railroad, was also president and general manager of Western Utah Copper Company. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 18, number 24, March 30, 1917, p.28)

April 1917
Passenger service began during mid April 1917. The railroad was handling tonnage from the mines of the Deep Creek District and sheep from Erickson's Ranch, where switch tracks and stock yards had been installed. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 19, number 2, April 30, 1917, p.30)

Deep Creek Railroad handling 350 tons per day from Western Utah Copper, the Copperopolis, the Woodman, the Pole Star, and the Wilson Brothers mines. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 19, number 2, April 30, 1917, p.35, "Around The State")

May 1917
Western Utah Copper Company shipping 200 tons per day over the Deep Creek Railroad. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 19, number 3, May 15, 1917, p.40, "Around The State")

October 1917
C. M. Levey and T. J. Wyche, president and chief engineer of Western Pacific Railroad, visited the Deep Creek Railroad, causing reports that WP planned to take over the Deep Creek line and extend it to Ely, Nevada. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 19, number 13, October 15, 1917, p.37, "Mine, Mill and General Construction Notes")

February 1918
The Deep Creek Railroad had shipped 200 tons per day from the Western Utah Copper mine. (Salt Lake Mining Review, Volume 19, number 21, February 15, 1918, p.28)

1923
The Western Utah Copper Company at Gold Hill was the source for shipments of 100 tons per day of arsenic, with preparations to increase shipments to 300 tons per day. The mine was being leased by American Smelting & Refining Company, who also leased the Salt Lake Insecticide Company, the destination for the aresenic shipments. The arsenic was being used to produce 15 tons per day of calcium arsenate per day, with the major use being to fight a boll-weevil infestation. (Salt Lake Mining Review, December 15, 1923, Utah Digital Newspaper Project)

During a boom in 1917-1925, the Deep Creek Railroad hauled out hundreds of tons of tungsten. (Utah History Encyclopedia)

July 5, 1938
Letter from M. Moore to Bill MacDougell. The letter is on Deep Creek Railroad Company letterhead, Office of the Manager, dated July 5, 1938 at Wendover, Utah:

I have been quite busy myself, with two weeks rain with more or less damage to track and bridges every day it is all two track men and myself can do to keep in shape to run a train once a week. A CCC camp shipping in with 15 or 20 oars of material means running extra trains. Our engine will only handle 2 or 4 loads at a time on the 8 mile hill at the south end.

October 1938
The Deep Creek Railroad was featured in an Associated Press article. The railroad operated on one day per week, usually Friday evening. Its Bladwin locomotive had been condemned by state inspectors, and the road was using one borrowed from its Western Pacific parent company. Ogden Standard Examiner, October 7, 1938) (full text of article)

November 1938
In a description of the railroad in November 1938, a note was made of their single "1890 Baldwin" locomotive. Operations consisted of a train once a week, with a former Central Pacific passenger car older than the locomotive, and still equipped with two potbellied stoves. The rails were dated 1885 and 1886. Operations started on March 1, 1917. (Ogden Standard Examiner, November 6, 1938) (full text of article)

July 1, 1939
Deep Creek Railroad received federal approval to abandon entire line. (ICC Finance Docket 12307, in 233 ICC 387) (see also Utah Public Service Commission files, Box B65T1)

Maps

Map of Deep Creek Railroad -- A map of Deep Creek Railroad, as shown in its abandonment request.

Map of Deep Creek Railroad -- A Google Map of the Deep Creek Railroad, built in 1917 between Wendover and Gold Hill.

Locomotives

Road
Number
Previous
Number
Wheel
Arrangement
Builder Builder
Number
Builder
Date
Date To
Deep Creek
Date Retired
By Deep Creek
1 D&RG 543 4-6-0 Rome 539 Oct 1889 Nov 1916 Sep 1930
2 D&RG 597 2-8-0 Baldwin 11251 Oct 1890 1916-1917 Jan 1939

General Notes:

a. Deep Creek 1 was built in October 1889 as D&RG 36, renumbered to D&RG 543 in April 1909 (D&RG Class T-17); sold on November 18, 1916 to Deep Creek Railroad; scrapped in September 1930. (18x24 inch cylinders; 60 inch drivers; 114,800 pounds operating weight)
  Deep Creek 2 was built in October 1890 as D&RG 597 (D&RG Class C-28); to Deep Creek 2 in 1916 or 1917; last used in March 1938, scrapped in January 1939. (20x24 inch cylinders; 46 inch drivers; 113,200 pounds operating weight)
b. Sources include research by George Pitchard; "Locomotives of the Rio Grande" Colorado Railroad Museum, pages 37, 38; and "Locomotives of the Western Pacific, A Photo Story of Steam" by Guy Dunsomb and Fred Stindt.

More Information

Corporate Information for Deep Creek Railroad -- Corporate informaion.

Deep Creek Mountains -- An entry in the Utah History Encyclopedia, including information about the Deep Creek Railroad.

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